Synopsis Introduction Act I Act II Act III Dido and AeneasHenry Purcell. Tragic opera in three acts. 1689 or earlier.Libretto by Nahum Tate, after his play Brutus of Alba and Virgil"s Aeneid.First performance at Josias Priest"s school in Chelsea, London,before December 1689, with a possible earlier performance as a court masque in 1684.CHARACTERSDido, Queen of Carthage sopranoAeneas, a Trojan prince baritoneBelinda, Dido"s confidante sopranoSorceress mezzo-soprano or baritoneSpirit, in the form of Mercury sopranoSailor soprano or baritoneDido, the widowed Queen of Carthage, entertains the Trojan Prince Aeneas, shipwrecked on hisway to Italy, where he will found a new Troy. Dido and Aeneas are in love. Witches plot Dido’sdestruction and the Sorceress conjures a storm, to break out when the royal couple are hunting, andthe impersonation of Mercury by one of her coven. The storm duly breaks and the courtiers hastenback to town, while the false Mercury tells Aeneas he must leave Dido and sail for Italy. Aeneas andhis sailors prepare to leave, to the delight of the witches. Aeneas parts from Dido, who kills herselfonce he has gone, her death lamented by mourning cupids.It has been plausibly suggested that Purcell"s short opera Dido and Aeneas was originallydesigned as a court masque, and possible topical political allusions have been proposed, notably inthe light of the future James II"s Catholicism, seen to deflect him from his duty as a future king, ahypothetical intrigue that casts the Jesuits as witches. The work owes something to John Blow’sVenus and Adonis of 1683.

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Most famous of all elements in the opera is Dido"s lament, When I amlaid in earth, with its descending ground bass borrowed from current Venetian practice.